guardians of the forest
MY JOURNEY TO BORNEO was a pilgrimage into the heart of destruction. It was the darkest place I could imagine, because the Dayak-Benuaq people of Muara Tae were watching their ancestral forest disappear to illegal bulldozing and had been unable to stop it. This sounded like torture to me, to have to watch such destruction, but I went anyway. I didn’t see what I could do to help, but I wanted to offer my presence — at least they would know that someone cared. But instead of being devastated by the experience, I went away renewed and inspired by their spirit.

While I was there, I agreed to help them crowd-fund a traditional 64-day ancient vow ceremony (called Sumpah Adat) on behalf of the forest, which the elders said was their last real hope. Now, with the help of collaborators around the globe, (including my friend Ambrosius “Ruwi” Ruwindrijarto who introduced me to the people of Muara Tae, and my friend Tesa Silvestre, who was a powerful partner in the crowd-funding campaign) their ceremony has been carried out. Tribal leaders invite you to use their ceremony as inspiration to remember the mandate given to all humans at the beginning of time, according to their tradition: to nurture and care for the earth.

Here is a short video of a talk I gave about this collaboration with the Dayak on Earth Day 2014 in Ubud Bali:

Asuy is a knowledge holder and leader in the tribe. He told us that while the sacred contract with the ancestors tells humans to nurture balance on the earth, it leaves it up to us how this is to be done for the times we live in. This means those of us who live in the industrial world, cut off from inspiring collective practices, are charged with devising new inquiries, rituals and other potent methods of reminding ourselves and one another of our role as humans in sustaining life, as well as helping us to see the impact of our use of resources. We need to get creative -— be willing to experiment together. Joining with this tribe as they did their ceremony was one such experiment: it allowed us to be part of a larger field of human inquiry with them, and for those of us who have lost touch with our own indigenous ways, the tribe offered their’s as inspiration to create something that works for the time and place that we live in.

While the ceremony has ended, the people of Muara Tae continue to inspire. Please join us in this exploration as we build a bridge between cultures and paradigms — for the sake of our forests and all the beings dependent on them.

-Read my essay on how this campaign came to be
View videos and listen to audio interviews about this collaboration with the Dayak people
-Learn more about the people of Muara Tae
-Resources for creating inquiries alone or with friends
Guardians of the Forest on Facebook